Why side switches?

I’m still trying to understand the popularity of side switches. Sure on a few lights they work well, like my Zebralight with fixed clip and easily tactile switch location. But others you almost have to look for the switch visually (I’m looking at you Thrunite!). Some others are decent but because the pocket clips are moveable locating the switch isn’t completely reliable. None of those issue exist with a rear clicky.

Even worse, IMHO, is the double switch where the side switch changes modes and the tail is on/off! You basically either have to change grips all the time during use or be some type of guitar player to hit the different buttons.

Now I understand on larger lights that a side switch works well, as one may often be holding it differently such that access to the tail would be awkward (thing Maglites, SP70, etc). But on these small, pocket lights I just don’t see the benefit of a side switch?

It’s more comfortable for real life use. I used to love throwers and for me they need a tail switch. But for general purpose, walking the dog or whatever, because of the way I’m holding the light, a side switch makes more sense.

Several points. Most people don’t hold flashlights like gravy seals ( who put the thumb on tail) - meaning when holding the tube in hand, your thumb usually presses at the head naturally. Where most side switches are.

A vast majority of lights nowadays are using e-switches. The easiest way to connect e-switches to the driver is to put the switch on the side in the head too.

E-switches in the tail are a lot more tricky and manufacturers have to design a rather long signal path from the switch across the whole tube to the front, which doesn’t always work great in the end. See the issues the FW3A series has with the inner tube for the signal. Or the battery stunts Olight is doing to enable the use of the body as signal path.

There was a time when bell bottoms were in style, then they went out of style, then they came back. Its no different with lights. The side switch came first, then later the tail switch was more slick, then the side switch came back. I think its just preference.

- I prefer the advanced UI made possible with an electronic switch, while a tail e-switch is possible to implement it is more complicated and isn’t as common.

- I prefer silent switches, clicky switches are loud.

  • I find the side position more ergonomic, unless the light is very small (AAA).

I agree that on some badly designed light the switch is hard to find without looking (indeed Thrunite is bad in this regard), but it doesn’t have to be that way, also I use mostly headlamps and this isn’t an issue with those.

Why not?

i also prefer tail switch much better, and i found the same problem, esp with thrunite v6, so hard to find the switch. but i think one of the reason for some of the lights is magnetic tailcap

It’s right and comfortable place for flashlight switch. Could be magnetic ring instead.

For me personally… At first the tailcap switch was nice. When I got a SF 6P it was fun to 18650 mod and upgrade with malkoff and Over-ready parts. I just grew to accept that form factor. In all honesty it was never really a good choice as a general-use hand held task light. Be honest, does anyone really walk their dog, jog the neighborhood, or navigate a camp site at night holding a flashlight up next to their face? That can’t possibly be preferred place to rest/relax your arm for anything beyond a few minutes.

I got a Fenix E35UE with a single side switch and haven’t really looked back from there. I got it mainly as a bike light, but it completely replaced that SF-6P. I have bought several 14500 and 26650 lights since that Fenix and they all have side switch UIs. I still use the 6P around the house from time to time, but the tailcap switch is not even close to my preferred form factor.

To be totally honest I will grab a headlamp, lantern or even a 90 degree crimp-neck style before a cylindrical tail switch light…. but thats probably a different discussion. The point being the tail switch only UI format is pretty far down my list of preferences.

Just my .02

i do, all the time, cuz i walk him off leash, im in the city, but im sure most people in the country side do it as well, even tho i use side switch throwers, i would turn it on, and hold it up to my shoulder height like a tail switch light, cuz im trying to use it as a search light to spot my dog, and more importantly, other animals. you must either not own a dog or dont train him enough to recall so hes always on leash

I had a german shepherd growing up and I frequently walk my cousins small mal-shi. Its illegal to walk dogs off leash in my area. So I can see that being a difference here.

Side switches minimize size, as they’re usually electronic. Electronic switches can usually handle more current as well.

Also since they’re electronic, you can program advanced UI with them. And yes, I’m not a fan of lights with multiple switches either.

Point #2, I agree 100%, but as I understand it (and I’m sure someone will correct me if needed) e-switches don’t handle current. They remove the need for the mechanical power switch to handle current. So, generally, e-switch-only torches have an easier time handling more current.

But, yeah, timing is much easier to measure and use in the UI from an e-switch on mcu pins, than on a mechanical power switch that powers down the mcu.

Yeah programmable designs are really nice and I think easier with side E-switch UIs.
I have a quark AAT thats programmable, you have to twist the bezel a few times to enter programming mode then use the tailcap to select output levels for its two modes.

As a side note for this thread, that AAT is my most frequently used tail switch only light. I upgraded it to a warm tint XPG3 a couple years ago… great light for either IMR 14500 or Eneloops (my preference).

You can also pass more current since you aren’t depending on a mechanical switch with contact points that add resistance and can heat up to the point the switch fails. A mechanical witch needs to be robust and big to handle 20+ amps like were getting from triples and quads these days. In a compact single cell flashlight that adds size and weight. Plus, e switches are better for advanced UIs.

I can appreciate some of the engineering aspects, especially reducing the need for mechanical switches (as long as there is still a physical lockout available). Not sure I see the ergonomics argument. I still find side switches more difficult to locate when “weilding” the light and generally use lights in a ice pick or cigar grip. I don’t really ever walk with a side in my hand hanging down at my side like an old lantern… If I’m going to be walking/hiking with a light on constantly I’m definitely grabbing a headlamp. Otherwise for momentary and task use- which is what my hand lights typically see- I find they are typically used at chest or shoulder level anyways.

Personally don’t agree with this. As this kind of setup often allows you to have a momentary on with the rear clicky as well as offering a full mechanical lockout of the rear clicky switch.

This can be very nice, as most times I use a light I only want a single output. I don’t need to be changing modes.

Me, I like variety, and what’s what determines for me what’s “best”.

Small lights like AAAs, it’s almost always twisty or nothing for me. Kinda retarded to have almost no grip on such a small light yet have to push a stiff tailclicky to operate it. Might as well save the length and make it a twisty.

Still small AA lights to me are best with a sideswitch, which I almost always hold pencil-style. Again, limited length, thus limited grip, it’s too cumbersome to have to crane your thumb into some unnatural position to turn it on/off. My Xeno E03 is like that, even with the finger-grooves in the side. The Immolate LD10, while short but not an AA light, is to me almost useless as a single-hander at all, because of the slick sides, complete and total lack of grip, and stiff tailswitch. You gotta use 2 hands: one to hold the light, and the other to press the switch.

2×AA and 2×AAA lights are great with tailclickies.

On the other extreme, big lights like an L2 (with 2 cells), L6, multicell Mags, etc., are cumbersome to use with a tailswitch, so should always have a sideswitch. My Tacklife and Cometa (single 26650, but big heads) are kinda on the edge of comfort as far as tailswitch lights, but still have great grip and aren’t too nose-heavy.

As for that middle ground, typische 18650 lights, I like all 3: tail, side, and dual. I almost always carry my lights icepick-style at eye- or neck-index (always have, even as a kid, even the big honkin’ gray 5D cell Rat Shack freebies), and whether side or tail, activate the light with either thumb (tail) or ring/pinky (side). No big deal, and in fact is second-nature to me. Only hold I don’t use, EVER, is “cigar-grip”. Sissy way to hold it, too flimsy, the light just wags around with the slightest hand/finger movement.

Dual-switch lights can be hit or miss, though. Zanflare F1, Nitefox UT20, etc., were the perfect size and grip to be able to click the tail with a thumb and change modes with the pinky, all with one secure grip. One rare exception is the SP31v2 which has the switches just too widely-spaced to be able to do that (well, unless you’re Andre The Giant, and he’s dead), and I gotta slide the light fore/aft as needed to work the switches.

One nasty aspect to almost all dual-switch lights is the f’n U-shaped cutouts around the tailswitch. Chances are pretty small that you’ll be able to bap the sideswitch comfortably without having 1 of the 4 corners of those cutouts on the tailcap digging into your thumb. Either leave the switch proud, or have it fully encircled.

So, as usual, there’s no One Perfect Way, and it all depends on the size/shape/length/weight of the light, how you prefer to hold it, what you’re using it for, how you’re using it (eg, constant vs momentary), and a gaggle of other factors. So yeah, I like variety. What I like, I buy. What I don’t like, I don’t buy. Same as anything else.

I tried the over hand carry last night during my evening walk. No way do I want to hold my hand up for 15 minutes. Not natural at all. For inspection or law enforcement, yeah makes sense there. The old Boxing analogy was that just holding your arms up for 3 minutes is hard. Why would I want to do that while taking a leisurely walk?

That’s why God invented headlamps.